A highly insightful session marked the official inauguration of the 37th FISITA World Automotive Congress – the automotive industry’s largest global biennial confluence - at the Chennai Trade Centre in Chennai. Themed ‘Disruptive Technologies for Affordable and Sustainable Mobility, the FISITA World Automotive Congress is being held for the first time in FISITA’s 70-year history, which only underlines the country’s growing importance in the global automotive space. The first speech of the opening ceremony kicked off with Dr Aravind Bharadwaj, Chief Technology Officer, Farm Equipment Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra, while stating that the Indian auto industry’s growth story is very much in fact, added that India is well on its way to emerging as the world’s third largest automotive market by 2020. The automotive industry is witnessing significant transformations owing to rapidly changing customer preferences and stringent regulatory requirements. In this regard, Bharadwaj said emerging mobility solutions are required to meet the needs of increasingly environment-conscious customers as well as address the challenges thrown up by infrastructure constraints for which technology will play a big role in achieving this objective.
Asserting that FISITA World Automotive Congress will set the stage for global automotive industry experts to deliberate with Indian counterparts on technologies such as connected, shared, electric mobility and autonomous vehicles, Bharadwaj these technologies have the potential to transform the future of mobility. The-four-day event that has attracted over 1,200 delegates from India and abroad, is touted as an important landmark for the Indian automotive industry to foster partnership with the global automotive community to meet the emerging mobility needs. The insightful deliberations FISITA World Automotive Congress is expected to serve as a catalyst for India to develop breakthrough technologies that will meet the needs of not only Indian but also global customers.
Dr Pawan Goenka, Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Patron, FISITA 2018 Steering Committee, deliberated on the changing dynamics in mobility industry, technological transformations, emergence of new markets and India’s role as technology provider to the world. Sharing his thoughts on the three key focus areas – disruption, affordability and sustainability (DAS), Goenka said these areas have a lot of good as well as some bad and ugly. Sustainability is about removing bad and ugly and also making good even better, he noted.
Goenka stated that the automotive industry has been contributing significantly to the country’s economy in terms of investment, employment, tax revenues, technology development while offering fun, freedom and adventure to its users. However, he remarked that the industry is also responsible for poor air quality, climate change, road congestion, road fatalities, etc. Pointing out that developing nations are aspiring for better mobility access, the Mahindra & Mahindra MD said the growth of the industry growth is coming from nations with per capita income, thus stressing the importance of more affordable of mobility solutions.
India gave the world the concept of sub four-metre cars that ushered in one level of affordability and the need of the hour is to go beyond that, he noted. Goenka said the challenge is to make mobility accessible to billions of people worldwide who cannot afford it. The answers to addressing affordability and sustainability lie in disruptive technologies and disruptive business models, he added. Goenka further added that FISITA World Automotive Congress with its unique conglomerate of global technology leaders will accelerate disruption and help build sustainable mobility.
Daniel Nicholson, President, FISITA and Vice President, Global Propulsion Systems, General Motors, said there is consensus among many present at the congress that the automotive industry will change more over the next five years than what it has over the last 50 years. The FISITA President said the industry is witnessing rapid changes in terms of volatile regulatory environments, increased availability of alternate propulsion systems, autonomous vehicles, advanced cyber security, etc. Such sweeping changes are affecting every facet of the automotive industry, he noted.
However, Nicholson averred that despite all the changes taking place in the global automotive space, vehicles in contemporary times have continued to improve, in terms of enhanced safety, high efficiency, quality and impact on environment.
He emphasised the need for existing technologies to be continually refined and improved in order to offer more affordable and safe mobility options for people across the globe. The focus should be on improving its existing technologies, while at the same time undertaking radical and disruptive technologies to produce significant and profound improvements in future, Nicholson added.
Arvind Balaji, Joint Managing Director, Lucas TVS India and Guest of Honour, said the four themes of the automotive industry – shared mobility, electromobility, connected and autonomous vehicles – are raising fundamental questions. He wondered whether mobility will be a service (like Uber, Ola, etc) or will it be like a product sold to customers today and added that which trend evolves will actually determine what kind of vehicles are sold. The rapid adoption of connected technologies will mark the entry of many new suppliers from outside the country. Balaji is not sure if such a scenario will be disruptive to the current players.
As far as frugal engineering is concerned, he said India has shown the way as its engineers on their own or with technical partners are working on next generation technologies such 48 volt systems, advanced braking systems, light component systems, etc.
M. Murugappan, Executive Chairman, Murugappa Group and Chief Guest, said FISITA World Automotive Congress will spur the Indian mobility ecosystem. Disruptive innovation is not about science, products and processes but disruptive business model itself, he added. Murugappan said the industry is witnessing a geographical shift from more developed nations to developing nations like India, Brazil, Russia, China, where requirements, priorities and technologies are very different. He added that the automotive industry has been at the forefront of consortium research that paved the way for spawning new technologies. Academic institutes in India are well placed to take forward this consortium research, he added. The FISITA Medal Award 2018 was bestowed on Toyoto’s Akihito Saito, which was collected on his behalf by Yuichi Azumi. The first SAEINDIA Distinguished Emeritus Award was handed over to Krishna Kumar, Former Executive Director (Quality), Maruti Suzuki.
N Balasubramaniam Deputy Vice President Renault Nissan Technology and Business Centre India delivered the vote of thanks.